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tv   Your Business  MSNBC  September 6, 2009 7:30am-7:59am EDT

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's progressive. call or click today. every small business is looking for that one thing that will get its customers talking. we meet one company in austin that found it in the form of an eight-football of plastic. easy ways to get the word out about your business on the cheap. it's a special marketing edition coming up next on "your business."
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hi there everyone. i'm j.j. ramberg. welcome to "your business," where we give you tips and advice to help your business grow. today our focus is on marketing. when the three founders of the reusable bag company blue avocado launched their company, they knew they needed something flashy to catch people's attention, and they found it in the trash. >> a plastic ball, huh? >> meet schlumpy. this spring afternoon it made
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its way through the town of austin, texas. >> it's crazy. it's huge. >> definitely makes a statement. and i like that. >> i got it's the brain child of the three founders of the reusable bag company blue avocado. amy george, page davis and melissa nathan. >> the blue avocado system was to help people take the first step in going green. we've created a six-piece system. each bag has its own functionality. >> schlumpy is the cornerstone of their marketing campaign to get people to stop using plastic and start using their bag. >> schlumpy, he has brought upon love, and people feel sad for him. when he's rolling he's sort of a
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sad state of affairs. >> he, you talk about him is a person. he's a big ball of bags. >> no, no, no. he is so much more. >> he captures people in a way that's kind of up lifting and enlightening. it's really the perfect entree to get people to take the billion bag pledge. >> the billion bag pledge is the other part of this campaign where they ask people to promise to curb their plastic habits. >> hi there. have you been part of the campaign to avoid plastic bags? >> the women admit their campaign is more spectacle than sales. but it gets the conversation started and that sells bags. >> schlumpy was all about the notion we keep hearing about, the danger of plastic bags and the impact on the environment. >> we've seen after these campaigns, the next week our sales will go up. >> to say thank you we're giving away a free bag. would you like a veggie bag, a grow bag? >> whole foods says it's this type of activity that make the
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decision to carry the grow pack a no-brainer. >> we have a giant glob of disposable bags we want to roll around the table. we want to set up this table and have people take up the pledge to give up using disposable grocery bags. >> how many are you pledging to save? >> 20. >> 20 a week. that's hundreds a year. >> this one-to-one conversation with customers, whether on the sleep, in the retailers or on blue ka dough's website is central to the company's essence. >> i think people are really hungry to connect and that's why the social media in this new world of marketing is so powerful. >> page does most of the blogging. she says the most important thing for her is to be authentic, which is why when you read her post, there's nothing formal about them. >> it's no surprise e we have serious crushes at blue avocado, whether a brand curb or a girl
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crush -- >> she jokes through social media she's developed an am nazing network of new friends. >> i haven't met them. they're all virtual. it's empowering and fun. >> beyond just fun, it's where they find many of their customers. >> our online community really started paying it forward to other people for other people to take the pledge. >> since launching about a year ago, the women have developed relationships with major retailers like whole foods and kroger across the country and say they've helped keep nearly 10 million plastic bags off the market. but they say that's just the very first step on the road to one billion. >> i think we're really trying to appreciate every single moment because you just don't know. i really think we're just getting started. they certainly got people talking about blue avocado. how co-you get the marketing
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ball rowling for your company. let's turn to erica dine nan min hand is the ceo of min hand consulting. she joins us again. john jance is here, author of "duct tape marketing: the world's most practical small business marketing guide." john. i'll start with you. what did you think? >> i thought it was great. the reason that that really works -- people say stunts can backfire and people can get involved and they don't pay off. that one worked because i thought it felt so authentic. they kept referencing the fact by, by the way, we sell more product. at the end of the day, that's what all this stuff is about. i thought it really worked. >> i must admit i went in late skeptical when i went to do the piece. i don't always believe in these big stunts. this one wasn't that expensive. it definitely got people's attention. there was a call to action. >> i think you really have to give people something they can believe in. if your product -- if you're taking what's essentially kind
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of a commodity product, jazzing it up and charging a premium. now when they buy blue avocado they might pay more than the $3.99 whole foods bag, they're getting the pledge, the fun experience of the schlumpy. people might pay a premium for that. >> i think the green market is a little tough because the people who are really into it, they've got their own bags, they made their own. but the market they're really after which is what i would call kind of the conscious consumer, they want to do this stuff. they know it's the right thing to do but they're still eating meat and driving an suv, too. >> we may see that coming at them. >> i think the other thing that was really important was how the manager from whole foods had said the fact they were even doing this really creative marketing sense is what got them on the shelf. >> even if it doesn't do anything on the consumer side, it eventually does because it will get you into the stores.
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what else i thought was interesting, not just the rolling bag or the pledge, but part of this whole campaign that then went into social media. so there were so many pass sets of it. i saw you shaking your head when we were talking about how page tucker said it needs to be authentic. >> you're absolutely right. adding the other things on it. people today kraif connection with the products and the companies they do business with. i think one of the things they're doing is taking this sort of inanimate thing, a bag, and really bringing it to live and allowing people -- >> she was saying "he" was a sad sack. >> allowing people to connect at a personal level that was fun. we will spend our last dollar to be entertained. i think that's what they're doing a lot of. >> i thought the twitter postings and the blog really helped bring the energy and the personality of the management team to the forefront of this brand. you know, it makes people get excited ability using this on a daily basis. >> the take-away is what we said before, if you're going to do something like this, it has to
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be from your core, has to be what your company is all about. thanks you guys. it's time to answer only of your business questions about marketing. the first one comes from an owner of a salon and spa equipment company. >> how do you know how much to spend on sales and marketing in a small business? the second part of the question is, how do you know if you're getting the right return on the dollars that you spend? >> an interesting question because you can't always figure out what your return on marketing is. how do you put these numbers together? >> in terms of the first question which is how much to spend on marketing, you've got to look at your own budget, how much money do you have to spare outside of operations, first of all. but the second part of the question is much more important which is how do you know if you're getting the right return. so you have to look at the cost of whatever your marketing vehicle is and then figure out, you know, how many leads is this generating, how many sales is it
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actually leading to, and does the contribution or gross margin on your product actually justify that investment. >> you know, that's hard to do. this person is probably not putting out a television commercial. let's say you do and it's not to a special website or special phone number, you don't know how many people are coming because of that commercial. >> i say don't runny advertising you can't hold accountable. i think that can become a real problem. >> which is why the web is so brilliant. >> there are lots of things you can do. there are phone numbers that can be tracked, lots of ways to really track. . i'd like to go back and address part two about the percentage. there are a lot of textbooks out there that we are exposing our children to that will suggest marketing should be 10% should be -- that's the part -- you can't do a number like that. what duds it cost you to get a lead and are you making a profit when you close the deal. >> the return on investment. i agree. i think making efficient use of promotional codes and other
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tracking devices really is vital. >> kind of the only way to do it. let's move on to the next o one, from caroline. she writes, i started a home cleaning business. i pass out business cards, a flier and done a display in a bank, but i'm not getting any calls. can you help me with information on what else i should be doing? >> that's one of the perfect businesses where her customers, hopefully are happy, would probably be thrilled to share what she does. i would find some ways to really incentivize them or at least educate them on ways they might pass on, maybe even a coupon or something for a freei cleaning o their friend. >> would you do that? >> that's one of these word-of-mouth kind of businesses. this person is going to be coming into your home you want a friend to tell you about. >> more than give this to a friend for a free cleaning. >> that's what i was thinking, she's got to figure out what her target market is and to hopefully generate word-of-mouth
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advertising would be great. so existing clients maybe get a discount if another person buys a package. also right now a lot of housekeeping services which could be considered a commodity business are focusing on ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. for example, using all green or natural cleaning products or maybe having a website where you can buy a package of products online might be helpful to get her name out there. >> let's go to the next question. this is about social networking sites like facebook and inked in. >> what from the benefits and can business really have a blog and it really doesn't cost any mon any? they say it's free. is it really free, because th e there's a lot of administration and time involved. >> she's talking about two things. facebook, free. i can tell you that. i always have questions about blogs because i've had a lot of people come on and say you should definitely blog. then you need to be writing something interesting so that people read it.
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i'd love to hear what your take is. >> i firmly believe every business should have a blog. that's not because people are waking up, getting coffee and saying i'm going to go read john's blog. it's because millions of people go on every day and are searching for answers to problems they have or even in their community and blog content or frequently updated content is what's showing up in those search engines. it's absolutely the best way to be found. there's an investment of time. >> i was about to say, at that point then, it's not free. it's either taking your time or an employee's time. >> it's not absolutely free. but compared to trying to get a spot on tv or radio there's a huge advantage there. it's the opportunity cost of your time, but like john was saying, it's very important to have your own blog and to also get mentions in other people's blogs, have linkable, searchable content to help optimize where you're going to come up in a google search. >> let's move on to the last one. this is the question from the owner of a company that focuses on online marketing for spas. >> we are a high-tech company
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that is involved in the spa industry which is not a very high-tech industry. so we struggle all the time with our marketing messages. should we take our message and make it look more like the industry or really liam into our technology and stand out from the graphic that is we all see within the spa industry all the time? >> this is so interesting. probably once he gets the meeting, he can sell it. how does he present himself to get the meeting? >> the key to this question when he said should we look like everybody else? absolutely not. i think your goal as a small business owner, the world believes, your prospect world believes one spa company looks like another. you absolutely have to show them why you're different. >> should you look like the industry you're targeting, not like another industry that's doing what you're doing. should his materials have spa-ish looking stuff. >> everybody has to understand the industry he's catering to and the vibe of his customers. since he is providing a
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technology service, it is important for him as well to show them why he's bringing technological expertise they don't have in a way that makes them feel more comfortable and not overwhelmed. >> thank you for your advice. we'll have your guys back later on for the elevator pitch. all these questions came from our viewers. so if any of you out there have a question for our experts, head to our website, you can submit your questions by clicking on the "contact us" link. while on the site you can view this segment and other portions of our show. you'll also find web exclusive content along with other information to help you grow your business. all the information and help you run your business is at yourbusiness@msnbc.com. there are plenty of ways to make people aware of your business. you don't have to break the bank either. here are tips marketing experts have given us right here on the show. . >> the first question i always
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ask somebody, who is your target market? who are you trying to sell to? you want to be as specific about definings who that person, who that market is going to be. once you've defined that person, then you can start to do the research on what types of trade shows might be applicable to that market. there are some that because of the size of the show, you might have to be a little bit more out loud, might have to spend a little money on being there, and then there are others that are smaller, more niche oriented where, if you only have 100 or 200 exhibitors at the show, it's not that difficult to get the attention of the attendees that are walking through. >> you have a few seconds to convince someone whether they should continue considering you or hit the back button. here is an example of a website that actually google developed, and it has a lot of information here. but it may not do as well on the eight-second test which say ins the first few seconds a user
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should know exactly what they're getting, why they should be interested and what to do next. >> if the it isn't selling, it's a two-way conversation with your customer. how can you leverage that? an example would be what in your business, in your industry sin formative. think of it as an educational tool, not a selling tool. >> put it on youtube and then there will be a lot of dead silence. you have to get it out there. i always say friends, family, co-workers, e-mail the link, but then sending it to bloggers or ending it to the industry trade publication that covers your industry. sending it to somebody locally in the geography, the local newspaper, the local websites, always good ways. anybody who is going to write about it and talk about it, and if they think it's remarkable, funny, or any of the other things they're going to talk about, they'll talk about it and it's going to go viral.
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>> i think it comes from the dna of your business, and that is creating a participation culture where not only employees are participating in what you're trying to accomplish, but your customers are as well. they have this opportunity to become involved somehow. that is what helps spread the word in so many different ways. >> we've got more ways to get the word out about your business. you could try it with e-mails. will people read them? we'll show you how to catch your attention. our elevator pitcher needs help to help market her unique brand of laptop cases.
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with the company putting pressure on marketing budgets, entrepreneurs are learning e-mail newsletters can be a
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vital tool to retain customers. eric groves is if senior vice president of global market development for constant contact and author of "the constant contact guide to e-mail marketi every organization can learn." little marketing yourself in that title. but it's greet have you guys here because you certainly see e-mails going out every day and it is important for people to know what makes a good news letter and what doesn't. the first thing is how do you get it opened? my inbox is filled with tons of news letters. >> the first thing you need to think about is really sending to a permission-based list. the people that know you are actually someone that is going to respond to your e-mail and two things to look at. they look at the from line and the subject line. and they're going to ask themselves, do i know you and do i care? the subject line is about answering do i care? the from line is do i know you? >> not sending this random people. not buying or renting lists but
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people already your customers who already opted in? >> exactly. you want a permission-based list with the customers and perspective customers. people that know you and nurture that relationship through an ongoing communication. >> how do you know if you have a good subject line? how's it catchy? >> here's a couple of great ideas. say you're a cpa. you could send out a monthly news letter. your subject line says "monthly news letter" but what if you say two tips to get audited by the irs. it's two, short. those are things i might want to know about. >> this might be the most important thing. you have to get them to open it. >> yes. >> and then you have got someone to open it, you have to tell them something interesting. >> exactly. we're making an assumption they know who we are. we can get away from the urge to sell, sell, sell. what we are going to do is trade off their attention by educating them with things we know about
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so we share our knowledge. so as an expert in your field, whether a chef sending along information of a great recipe or a landscaper saying here's tips of plants that deer won't eat, that content has to engage and educate the customer because you are trying to stand out as an expert. when they need your services, you're the one they'll turn to and they're more likely to forward the e-mail to other people. >> and that's an acquisition vehicle. >> exactly. >> but okay. look, i might have a ton of great content. i'm an expert. if it doesn't look nice then someone's still going to open it and think, oh, jumble of words. i can't look at this. >> exactly. we have about 450 standardized templates that take care of all of that for you. basically a nice layout of text and image to put your content in and images in so your campaign looks like a beautiful marketing piece. >> finally, proofread. >> yeah.
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it is important to both proofread it and gra mattical error. have someone not involved in the creation of the content take a look at it before you send it out. you want to make sure that the links work and you have done a great job spell checking that con tent. >> i would say three people to look at it. they might forget something, too oorks more better. >> great advice. people have questions of e-mails they send out. thank you. >> pleasure. the ber net is rapidly changing the face of marketing and can be tough to keep up with the trends. our website of the week can help you do just that. understanding degree marketing.com provides a variety of marketing and pr tips. check out the latest news on topics such as social networking and search engines and has fun giveaways and promotions an links to other helpful sites for small business owners. we've been talking about how
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you can have the greatest product or service but doesn't matter if no one knows about it. today's elevator pitch, laptop carrying cases. >> hi, i'm emily. ceo and creative director of cusori. we protect your most valuable tool, your laptop with stylish bags and travel accessories for men and women. that are lightweight and check point friendly. i started with my sister who has technology and was the first bags sold at moma design store. we have fun with function without sacrificing style. and our bags are available online, apple.com and at international retailers. we have done projects for bmw, aol and mtv. the computing marketing sector
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is a multibillion industry and we are seeking $10 million to aggressive market our product an grow our brand. we expect sales of $150 million in 5 years with an roi of 30%. so visit online to shop or invest. >> all right. thank you so much. it's funny. we get so many different kind of pitches here and 10 million is one of the biggest we have gotten asked for. let's see what the panel thinks. go ahead, john. >> one minute is a tough way to pitch. i think you covered a lot of groupd in one minute. first off, i'd write you the check if i had it but, you know, you got us excited about the product. and i probably would have liked the seen more why is this company deserving of $10 million. i think in a minute, you know, all you can do is sell us on the idea of getting excited about it. i think you did a lot of great things. maybe the only thing to hear more of why you're deserving of it. >> erica? >> yeah. i think that the figure is way
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out of the ballpark probably of what you should be looking for and hopefully what you need. i think that the product looks amazing and people would be excited to be excited with the growth of this company and fund the marketing but if you're going to raise $10 million, your company right now would probably have to be worth at least 10 million so unless you have the sales to support that valuation, that would be a tough figure to raise. >> maybe you're willing to give away a lot of the company or something, or -- >> we are in revenue. there are many companies with zero revenues. >> absolutely. we are all alive in the '90s. that's great. i hope you get it and that this company is huge. thank you so much for pitching. we appreciate it. thank you so much for everything today. we appreciate it. so if any of you have a product or service and want feedback from our elevator pitch panel on your chances of getting interested veinterest ed investors, send us an e-mail. please include a short summary of what your company does, how
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much money to raise and what you intend to do with that money. you never know, somebody watching might be interested in helping you. generating buzz about your business doesn't have to cost you money. here are five tips to help you market your products for free courtesy of "success" magazine. list your business wisely. take advantage of free directories to reach your target market. two, look into a referral exchange. get to know whose businesses compliment your own. number three, use the press. write an informative press release and submit to local publications to get the word out about your company. four, comment on blog that is are relevant to your business. try to genuinely connect with people on shared interest and link to your own website. and number five, speaking engagements. volunteer to speak at local events or conventions where you think your expertise would be valued. to learn more about today's
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show, click on our website. yourbusiness.msnbc.com. you'll find today's segments and web exclusive content with more information to help you grow your business. >> ask your employee what three things could be done for quick changes to make their job better, more efficient. ask them what their dream project is dream job within the country. people are willing to take on more responsibility and fill in some of the gaps that you have in your business right now. >> also, we're interested in hearing of what's going on with your small business so click on the news line icon for the community discussions about today's topics. next week, a dry cleaner rewarding the customers in hopes of getting them and their clothes back in the door. >> the potential of the customer base targeted somewhere about 20% of our customers that are receiving this offer. >> we'll tell you how specialized discounts helped a business fight the effects of the recession. until then, i'm j.j.
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remember, we make your business our business. i'm katrina markoff, owner of vosges haut chocolates. we combine chocolate with exotic roots, flowers and spices to create tastes that tell cultural stories. but in today's economy, how do you run a business that's about indulgence, - yet maintain fiscal responsibility? - ( cash register bell dings ) selling prospective clients can require more than truffles with hungarian paprika to seal the deal. so to make every dollar we spend do the most for us, we use our american express open charge card. it's the card that understands what my business needs. we use membership rewards points to visit clients and vendors all over the world. and we rely on open's concierge service to get our clients into the top hotels and restaurants. which makes us look pretty sweet. when you're selling exotic chocolates, having a card you can count on isn't a luxury. it's a necessity.

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